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OUR HISTORY
Decatur school district: By the numbers

Decatur school district: By the numbers

A look at a program 156 years in the making

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DECATUR — President Abraham Lincoln was in the White House when Decatur public schools became a district. Since then, the district has occupied numerous buildings, a reflection of the community's population. The evolution continues with new projects and plans. 

Here's a look at some of the key numbers in the district's history. 

1857

Year the first public school was built in Decatur, at west North Church and William streets. The building — called "Big Brick," Church Street School and Second Ward School over the years — was constructed two years after Illinois passed a law allowing for taxation for schools. It was torn down in May 1903 and replaced by Gastman School. 

1865 

Year Decatur School District 61 is established. 

8,700

Students in the school district today.

23 

Consecutive years that Otto C. Keil was on the school board as of April 1958, when the then-new central office building at 101 W. Cerro Gordo St. was named the Keil Administration Building in his honor. It had been the Standard Oil office building. 

160,000

Cost in 1909 dollars to build Decatur High School. The first graduating class consisted of 123 students. It was razed in 1977 and replaced with the Decatur Civic Center. Decatur High School was renamed Stephen Decatur High School by the school board in 1955 when the decision was made to build two new high schools, Dwight D. Eisenhower High School and Douglas MacArthur High School. Stephen Decatur High School moved to East Mound Road, opening there in fall 1975, and became a middle school in 2020. 

15

School buildings in the district: A pre-kindergarten/early learning center, five kindergarten through sixth grade elementary schools, five kindergarten through eighth grade schools, one middle school, two high schools and one alternative education program.

Magnet schools in the district: Montessori Academy for Peace; American Dreamer STEM Academy; and Johns Hill Magnet School.  

1928 

Year Johns Hill School was constructed. The three-story structure was built on the site of the former home of Dr. C.H. and Jane Martin Johns, whose family had ties to Abraham Lincoln. A new magnet school was recently built on the site.

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